Major General Hughes was born in Ipswich, Dakota Territory on October 21, 1885 and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1908.
His first important assignment was in 1916 when he served as Ordnance Officer of the Mexican Expedition under General Pershing. Shortly thereafter, he went to France with the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). Between the wars he served at Picatinny Arsenal and as Chief of the Gun Testing Department at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
In 1939, he was transferred to the Office Chief of Ordnance. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed Ordnance Officer of the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) and in October 1942, he became Chief of Staff of the ETO. General Eisenhower appointed him as a special assistant and used him in various capacities. Subsequently, he served as Commander of U.S. troops in Rome after its capture. He was the Inspector General of the ETO and a planner for D-Day.
Shortly after his return from Europe in 1946, he was appointed Chief of Ordnance. During his tour as Chief of Ordnance, he streamlined the organization of the Ordnance Department, improving its efficiency. Due to his initiative, the facilities of the U.S. Army Ballistics Laboratories were improved, the Terminal Ballistics Laboratory was completed, and the White Sands Proving Ground became an important installation for rocket and missile testing.
Prior to World War II, the systems and standards he developed and installed were of enormous value in regard to World War II ammunition production. Many of the procedures he implemented for ammunition production are still in effect. General Hughes retired in 1949 and died on September 5, 1971.